25 Easy Ways to Be Healthier Than Ever in the New Year

Make 2018 your healthiest year with these simple health hacks.

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Cook more

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Homemade meals tend to be healthier than take-out because you know what's in them, plus you're not tempted to order something deliciously unhealthy that catches your eye. You can ensure you get the protein, fiber, and nutrient-rich veggies your body needs to run and can limit your fat, sugar, and salt intake, all of which put you at greater risk for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. If you're short on time, invest in a Crockpot slow cooker for effortless one-pot meals—by the time you get home from work, dinner is ready. (Bet you didn't know you could make these dinnertime favorites in a slow cooker!)

Don't get hung up on resolutions

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"January is the time of year when people are creating resolutions for the new year. This can be great for mental health, but it's important that they're reasonable and doable so you can see results and are likelier to succeed," says Stacy Kaiser, a New York City-based psychotherapist and editor-at-large of Live Happy. "Don't make a resolution to lose 30 pounds—instead, say you'll exercise more and eat better."

Schedule all your medical appointments at once

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Make a list of all your doctor and dental appointments at the beginning of the year, then schedule them right away. "This way they are on your calendar and it sets the intention that taking care of your health is a priority," says Josie Znidarsic, DO, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. "Otherwise, it gets easy to postpone appointments." Find out the secrets to getting the most out of your doctor's appointment.

Create a sleep sanctuary

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Snooze better by revamping your bedroom. Make sure it's cool, quiet, and dark. Ban electronics (yes, even TV!) about 30 minutes before bed; the blue light emitted can cause insomnia by reducing the amount of sleep hormone melatonin your body produces. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a diffuser; studies show this scent promotes relaxation. And consider implementing a calming ritual, such as yoga or meditation, to help your body and mind wind down, says Raj Dasgupta, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. (Don't make these other sleeping mistakes.)

Boost oral hygiene

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There's more to a healthy mouth than brushing and flossing each day. Be sure your toothpaste doesn't contain the ingredient triclosan—it's an antibacterial ingredient that was recently banned from all over-the-counter antiseptic soaps, gels, and wipes in the U.S. because of its potential to disrupt hormones, but it's still allowed to appear in some kinds of toothpaste. And don't forget to replace your toothbrush, too. Researchers found that brushes accumulated significant amounts of triclosan and continuously released it, even when a triclosan-free paste was used for brushing, opening brushers up to prolonged exposure. The American Dental Association recommends replacing a toothbrush every three to four months, regardless; when the bristles become frayed, their cleaning effectiveness decreases. And make sure to avoid these common toothbrushing mistakes.

Harness positivity

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"We often get so busy that we lose sight of our emotional well-being, which can lead to stress or negativity. Commit to doing a daily emotional check-in with yourself," says Kaiser. Choose a time—when you wake up, midday, or right before bed—and focus on how you feel, even if it's sad or angry. "Once you have assessed how you're feeling, think of something that makes you happy to shift your mood to a more positive place," she says.

Meal prep

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"With healthy meals ready to go, you may be less likely to end up with fast food or other unhealthy options, which are more attractive when you're hungry and pressed for time," says Marisa Moore, RD, in Atlanta. Plan out a few balanced meals (lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies) and prepare all the ingredients on the weekend; you can either cook them right then or store each ingredient separately (chopped and ready to cook). To keep food fresh longer, try a vacuum sealing system such as FoodSaver, an affordable option that's easy to use. (Check out these other meal prep tips.)

Make over your digital habits

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Disconnecting from your smartphone or laptop not only allows you to connect more with those around you, it can also prevent uncomfortable side effects of staring at a screen, such as blurred vision, headaches, neck pain, or irritated eyes. Limit social media use to one hour a day, resist checking e-mail after hours, or designate one night a week as a "no phone zone."

Acknowledge if you're "SAD"

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If you feel down during winter, you're not alone—many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes with the season and is diagnosed in women four times more frequently than men. Symptoms include low energy, weight gain, craving carbohydrates, and depression or social withdrawal (These are other silent signs of SAD.), but there may be an answer: light therapy. Sitting in front of a light box, such as the Verilux HAPPYLIGHT, exposes you to bright light that mimics sunlight (without the UV rays) and may relieve some of your symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Commit to exercise

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Getting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity per week doesn't mean you have to spend hours in the gym. "You can spread this out over the whole week or do a few days of longer activity," says Dr. Znidarsic. "It can be walking in your neighborhood or even at the store. Dance in your living room or enlist a friend to try a new class with you. Exercise is good for both your mood and physical well being."

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